Guarding the Western Frontier:Spanish Colonial Fortifications as a Cultural Route

Beginnings.   By 1565, Spain had effectively expanded her reach to encompass two vast oceans so that the monarch could boast that the sun never set over the empire.  In April of that year, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi had taken possession of the island of Cebu and all other adjacent islands that might be discovered in the name of the King.  He forthwith laid out a town following a grid plan and commenced to build a triangular palisade to defend it.

What began as a search for a western route to the Spice Islands in 1519 had forty years later matured to dreams of establishing a permanent foothold in Asia as the Portuguese had done earlier in Goa, Macao and Malacca, which Alfonso de Albuquerque had conquered in 1511.  From an Oriental sally point, Spain would go forth on a dual mission of evangelization and commerce.  The friar orders had their eyes set on the vast kingdom of China and which by then Europe had recognized as Marco Polo’s fabulous kingdom of Cathay.  The kingdom was a lodestone for traders for it was a source for silk, porcelain, lacquer and other oriental luxury goods and for missionaries it was vast field seeking Christian cultivation.

The islands, which Ferdinand Magellan had encountered in March 1521 and named Islas de San Lazaro for it was on the feast of the saint that he dropped anchor there, had been renamed by the Loisa expedition as Felipinas, in honor of the crown prince Felipe II, son of Carlos V, the Holy Roman emperor.  Forty years later it was time for a full occupation of the islands.

Such a vast empire had to secure its westernmost frontier, so far from Madrid that it had to be governed indirectly—through the vice-royalty of Mexico.

And this frontier was not secure, because it was being contested by other Europeans.  In fact, Spain’s occupation of the Felipinas was itself controversial.  Under the treaties agreed upon through the agency of the Pope, the islands were within Portuguese territory.  But that distinction turned academic when Philip II became monarch of a united Spain and Portugal and when Portugal declined in power toward the end of the 16th century.  But there were the Protestant Dutch who followed, establishing a trading center in Batavia (Jakarta) of the Dutch East Indies Company (VOT).  These entrepreneurs from the Low Countries, traveled with armed ships, to develop the Asiatic trade with Europe.  By 1661, the VOT had taken hold of La Formosa (Taiwan) and built a fortification there and despite the proscription of Europeans in Japan by the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Dutch continued to trade using Nagasaki as an exclusive enclave.

Spain’s boundaries were porous and without strong military might it could easily be wrested by well-armed Europeans.  Crucial to Spain’s economic and therefore political ascendancy was the protection of trading routes.  So over a number of decades a system of fortifications complemented by well-armed contingents of ships guarded the trading route to and from China and from Asia to the Americas; the Philippines serving as an entrepôt for trade goods.

In the early days of colonization or at the Philippine frontier, fortifications served still another purpose.  Legazpi’s act of building Fort San Pedro was to protect the fledgling Spanish community of Cebu.  He and his troops had just subjugated the Cebuanos and they continued to harass the Spaniards.

Fortifications as Cultural Route.  As Spanish rule spread over the Philippine archipelago, fortifications were built in frontier areas, like Tuao and Tandag, to protect the pueblos from attacks by mountain tribes and others who refused Spanish rule.

These pueblos or towns grew out of reducciones or hamlets and were organized as part of a strategy to evangelize and civilize the Philippines’ ethnic peoples.  Converted and induced to abandon their nomadic ways, these peoples were attracted to live in the pueblos because they offered security against attacks by the monteses and vagamundos (mountain tribes and lawless bands) and to which was added the amenities of a settled life.

Ironically, though, the concentration of peoples in a small area proved to be a lure to the slave raiders who attacked coastal towns during the season of the habagat, the southwest monsoon.  These slave raids were intense during the 17th century when the Maguindanao Sultanate was expanding its hold on Mindanao and from the mid-18th to the fourth decade of the 19th when British trading interests assisted the Sulu Sultanate’s rise in power and prestige in the area bounded by Jolo and Borneo, dubbed by historian James Warren “the Sulu Zone.”  It was imperative that a system of defense be built against these raiders.

Tomas de Comyn (1810) It is equally certain that, during peaceful times, the two schooners and sixty gunboats, constituting the number of the above-mentioned cruising vessels, would be in great measure useless; whilst in case of a rupture, they are not sufficient to protect the trade of these Islands from the attacks of an enemy, notwithstanding they now cost the government considerable sums in repairs, etc., in order to keep them fit for service.

Although built for military purposes, the far more important and long-lasting contribution of this system of defense was their role as nodes for the diffusion of culture.  As centers of control and expansion of economic, political and military might, the fortifications were also involved in religious, social, and cultural matters although this was not their primary function.  By providing protection for the Spaniards, the fortifications allowed missionaries to penetrate frontier areas and establish a foothold, even in areas where the population was hostile.  For instance, in the sheltering shadow of Fort San Jose (1632, later called Fort Pilar [1719]) the Jesuits were able to establish a college, a church that served the Lutaos (Sama Badjao) who had converted.  Zamboanga City grew from this core of fort, school and parish.

Built and maintained by the crown, royal forts like Zamboanga brought a mix of people.  Following a hierarchy of command, the fort commander was Spanish, the officers were Mexicans (i.e. from Spanish colonies in the Americas) and the foot soldiers were natives, usually Pampango and Tagalog.  These soldiers far from home did consort with the local population; some eventually decided to settle in the towns that grew around the fort after their tour of duty and married into the local families.  Where there was a royal fort, for instance San Miguel, at Iligan City, some Filipino families trace their roots to Mexicans.   In Cavite Puerto, where Fort San Felipe was built to protect the galleon’s anchorage a patois of Tagalog, Spanish, Mexican vernaculars and other language produced a distinctive language, one of the Chavacano languages in the Philippines.

By creating the possibility of unencumbered trade, free from external threats, cultural influences came with the exchange of goods.  Then again forts quite literally played an active part in the promotion and diffusion of cultural expression.  It is recorded that the first komedya in the Philippines was not performed on a stage but on the ramparts of Fort San Felipe in Cavite.  The komedya, also called Moro-moro, is a play depicting the battle between Moors and the Spanish.  The first Philippine komedya was not about Moors in distant lands but about the battle between the Maguindanao Sultan Kudarat and the Spaniards.  The players of this drama were students from the Colegio de San Ildefonso erected within the purview of this fort.

The prime example of fortifications as cultural vehicles is the walled city of Manila.  Morphologically, Intramuros as it is popularly known has two parts.  At its northwestern tip is a triangular fort, Santiago.  This was a military installation, which in colonial times was a virtual island, separated from the rest of the city by a moat.  Then there is the rest of the city, the civic, religious, cultural, educational, and social capital of the Philippines.  Here in this walled citadel were the mother churches of the religious orders, the palace of the governor general, the courts of law, the custom house, city hall, the educational institutions like Santo Tomas and Letran, the Colegio de San Jose and San Ignacio, the schools for girls, Santas Potenciana, Isabel, Catalina, and Rosa.  Here was the well-run hospital, San Juan de Dios and for a while the parian or Chinese market.  Here the printing presses.  Not to mention the yearly round of feasts and celebrations, the masked balls, dramatic presentations and pageants, the academic and literary events.  Here was introduced the European tradition in painting and sculpture and the European system of education.  Here were the Philippines first professionals trained.  The walls of Intramuros formed a cordon of safety where a bit of Europe could thrive under the tropic sun.

From the walled city sallied forth the missionaries and the civil bureaucrats who brought hispanidad to the islands of the Philippines, in turn bring back filipinisms in language, dress and habits.  Taken then as one system, fortifications may be rightly called a cultural route; a conduit through which cultural influences could travel, be assimilated and integrated in new cultural configurations.

Native antecedents.  Fortifications are by no means a European invention.  When Juan de Salcedo and Martin de Goiti were pushing their way north to Luzon, they encountered well-entrenched natives in the island of Mindoro.  These people sought protection in a fortification they had built on a mountain slope.  But the superior weaponry of the Spaniards allowed them to capture the native stronghold quickly.  Arriving in Manila, they found the well fortified kota of Rajah Sulayman (or Rajah Mura [the young rajah]) who had surrounded his residence with a palisade of stout logs.  Again canon fire from Salcedo and Goiti’s ships brought ruin to the palisade.

Local words related to fortification are: kota, muog, and ili.  Kota or kuta referred to a perimeter wall made of stout logs or coconut trunks, possibly reinforced by earth or stonework.  The plan of Sama Balangingi kuta, captured by Gov. Gen. Narcisco Claveria’s troops in the 1840s and drawn in Manuel Herbella’s manual on fortification shows a reinforced-type palisade.

Related to kuta and sometimes found inside it is a muog.  This refers to a strong house, built of wood planks, sometimes elevated from the ground by posts or haligi.  Sometimes the muog was built on trees with its trunk serving as the principal haligi.  Ili or ilihan means a natural fortification, usually an elevated site, which opens to an unobstructed view of the surroundings.  The elevation prevented easy attacks, while the unobstructed view made possible detecting enemy movements from far off.  A hill in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte is called ilihan and on top of it are remnants of a colonial fort.  Probably this site may have been occupied by an earlier native built fort but was subdued by Spanish troops.  The fort has an excellent vista of the town below.

A type of ili is the Batanes ijang; these are high places deliberately terraced to increase their defensive advantage.  Stone rip rap supports the terraces.  Oral tradition in Batanes claims that these elevated areas were used by the ancient Ivatans, who during times of tribal conflict would use stone projectiles to ward off enemies.  Preliminary archaeological excavations by the National Museum have uncovered some evidence of habitation, suggesting that the ijang was more than just a temporary refuge.

Around Lake Lanao, are remnants of ancient kuta.  Today some of these serve as cemeteries.  But in earlier times, the kuta surrounded the Maranao torogan, the chief’s long house.  The torogan, decorated with okir carvings and prow-like panolong, was not just private residence but was community space for festive gatherings, for settling disputes, and for meeting strangers—in short, the village center.

Indigenous fortifications, report Spanish chroniclers, were equipped with weapons, like the lantaka, a small caliber bronze canon.  But for more common were hand made spears, shields, bows and arrows for hand to hand combat.  Because of trade with the Europeans, native rulers were able to secure rifles and gun powder.  In the 18th century, the Sulu Sultanate’s retainers had rifles supplied by the British.  The nobility wore body armor of leather, carabao horn or brass plates with chain mail.  The crafting of this armor and of the lantaka continues in Marawi where bronze casters have kept alive the trade of their ancestors, but armor and lantaka are no longer made for war but for decoration.

Spanish fortifications.  Medieval castles had their heyday in Spain during the 14th and the 15th centuries.  Like the other European castles, the Spanish castle shares similar characteristics.

The heart of the castle was lord’s residence which was often a strongly built structure called the keep or donjon.  This was the last line of defense.  Surrounding the keep was a courtyard, the inner bailey protected by a tall stone and masonry wall, with rounded towers located strategically.

Around the inner wall were another courtyard, the outer bailey, and then another wall likewise with towers.  Around the outer wall was ditch, which would or would not be filled with water, the moat.  Entrance to the castle was through a drawbridge.  The drawbridge led to an arched doorway, which was sealed, by heavy wooden door and a grate, the portcullis.  The two set of walls surrounding the keep had parapets and a walkway behind the parapets for soldiers.  Machicolations or corbels supported the parapets.  But these were not just for show, they functioned as hidden openings through which defenders could hurl rocks or boiling oil, or rain arrows and later gun fire, on any attacker who might get close to the wall.

During the era of castles, weaponry was primitive, relying on sword, spear, lance, bow and arrow.  But as gunpowder was introduced to Europe from China and rifles and canons were invented and improved, the castle proved to be a liability.  Its tall towers were vulnerable to bombardment as a well-placed hit could bring them down, injuring the defenders with a rain of rocks.

Although castles were built to withstand long sieges—they had their own water system and adequate food supply—castles could not hold long under canon fire.  A new design was needed.

During the Renaissance, a new model of fortification was developed—the bastioned fort.  This was characterized by low, stout walls able to withstand bombardment, and a projection from the curtain known as a bastion.  Earlier bastion plans resembled the ace of spades and were known as orillon or orejon, meaning little ears because of the rounded appendages at the base of the spade-like bastion.  The forward side of the bastion was called cara or face, the sides flanco or flank and the area inside protected by parapets was the gola or gorge.  The bastions had the function of preventing attackers from reaching the principal curtain wall because they were so placed that attackers would be caught by cross fire as they approached the wall.  The design of the bastion improved over time from the simple tenaille trace or pointed design to the bastion trace which was considered as the most advanced and most advantageous of all the designs.

Complementing the defensive perimeter of curtain wall and bastion were the moat, a ditch usually filled with water, revellin or rebellin (ravelin) an outer bastion type structure that protected gates, media luna or demilune similar in design to the ravelin but protected the face of the bastion rather than the gate, small forward fortifications called reducto or fortin, redoubt and small fort.  Sometimes a fortification had more than one moat, and outer or second moat or contrafoso was constructed.  From the contrafoso to the field outside it, earth was shaped so that it sloped gently downward from the perimeter of the moat to the field.  This slope was called glacis.  In this way, attackers could be easily seen and shot from the ramparts of the fort or from a low wall that surrounded the moat.

This system of redundant structures came from the designs of the French military engineer Agustin de Vaubun, the engineer of the sun king, Louis XIV.  By the 18th century, his theories and designs were well known, so that when Dionisio O’Kelley a Spanish military engineer was assigned to Manila after the British occupation (1762-64), he proposed renovations following de Vaubun’s designs.  This is evident when comparing the plan of Intramuros in the 1738 report of Gov. Gen. Fernando Valdes Tamon and the proposals of O’Kelley.  After O’Kelley, for instance, the tenaza or tenaille walls in front of the Puerta del Parian was covered with sand and enclosed in a full ravelin.  Traces of the tenaza were uncovered during the restoration of the ravelin.

What differentiated the bastioned fort from the medieval castle was its weaponry.  The stout wall of the bastioned fort could carry the weight of heavy artillery.  Canons were mounted to bastions, and so positioned that it created a web of interlacing gun fire, making approached to a fortified settlement difficult.  The bastioned fort was no longer a passive barrier of defense but an active weapon of offense.

Bastioned forts did not house the residence of nobility, rather it was primarily a military installation, but its presence assured that a settlement could grow around it safely.  In many instances these settlements were protected by a wall.  Such is the case of Manila, where the city walls of Intramuros connected with that of Fort Santiago, the military installation.

Defensive walls of the city followed the bastioned plan.  So effective was Manila’s fortification that in its 300 or so years of history, its defensive qualities was compromised only four times.  First, during the Chinese riots of 1603, but this was the case of the enemy within as the Chinese market or Parian was within the walls at this point in history.  Second, during the British occupation when in 1762 British troops protected by the churches of Bagumbayan and Ermita were able to breach the walls at the southern flank of the city.  This was the most vulnerable part because it opened directly to land.  Third, during the Second World War when attacks came not from land or water but from the air.  On 8 December 1941, simultaneous with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was an assault on Manila and the neighboring airbases at Nichols and Clark Field, then in February 1945 when American troops bombarded Intramuros with high caliber cannons and airborne bombs.  Mounted on Quiapo Bridge, American cannon fire damaged most of the eastern flank.

Expanding the defensive perimeter.  We have already indicated that Legazpi’s first official act in founding a colony was to build a triangular palisade in Cebu.  By 1632, this palisade was replaced by stone structure that hewed to the triangular plan of the previous century. The Italian Jesuit Gianantonio Campioni was responsible for this construction.  He was also responsible for the church and early buildings of the Colegio de San Ildefonso built near the fort.

By the 18th century, the fortification now known as San Pedro was further improved.  This included the construction of a new gate, and a defensive barrier of wood trunks and earth before the gate called a falsabraga or fause braye.

The Cebu fort did not develop with the same sophistication as Manila’s Intramuros and Fort Santiago.  There was no moat, not much of forward structures but the basic elements of the bastioned for were there: the curtain wall and the bastions at the corners of triangle.

Manila’s fortification began early.  After Legazpi’s troops had driven the Tagalog under Rajah Sulayman from their stronghold, the Spanish occupied the site of Sulayman’s palisade and hastily built a fort to protect themselves from the Tagalog who had retreated to the northern bank of the Pasig.  Eventually, this palisade became Fort Santiago.

In September 1574, Legazpi’s successor as governor Guido de Lavezares fortified the city with a makeshift wall of “boards, stakes and boxes and barrels filled with sand” to prepare for the impending attack by the Chinese Limahong.  It was reported that Limahong was coming to the Philippines with a large contingent including women apparently as an expedition to establish a colony.  Manila took pains to prepare; the makeshift wall extended from Fort Santiago to roughly where the Bastion de San Diego stands.  The following year, Manila was able to withstand the attack of Limahong and Spanish troops managed to repel him

To secure the city from further attacks, Lavesares raised a palisade completed during the term of his successor Francisco de Sande.

In 1581, the Jesuits arrived in the Philippines.  Among the first three Jesuits was the superior, Antonio Sedeño.  A veteran of the Florida missions, Sedeño had served under the Duke of Feria. He arrived in the Philippines with knowledge of stone masonry and construction.  When the thatch city of Manila was razed by fire in 1583, the bishop Domingo de Salazar, O.P., who was a travel companion of Sedeño, asked the Jesuit to build an Episcopal palace in materials more enduring than wood and thatch.  Sedeño forthwith built the bishop’s residence in stone masonry, recruiting Chinese artisans in the work.  The bishop himself was instrumental in finding suitable stone quarries.  He had identified a site upstream of the Pasig River in the area now known as Guadalupe as a quarry site.  After completing this project, he built a house for the Jesuits in the city.  Formerly, the Jesuits had to stay outside the city perimeter in the area we now know as Malate.

Sedeño’s building ability was recognized by the Philippines’ third governor general, Santiago de Vera (r. 1584-90).  The governor prevailed upon the Jesuit to build a fortification to protect the city’s southern periphery.  Sedeño built for the city a roofed tower, circular in plan.  The tower he named Nuestra Senora de Guia in honor of the Virgin whose hermitage was near the southern perimeter; hence, visible from the tower.  Remnants of that tower were unearthed during an archaeological study of Bastion de San Diego, under which the tower was buried during subsequent work on the fortification.

Dasmarinas and Intramuros.  If there was any one person who worked to give the walled city of Manila, Intramuros, its present shape it was Gomez Perez de Dasmarinas (1590-93).  During his short-lived governorship (he was murdered by Chinese rowers during one of his expeditions) he managed to have the plan of Santiago simplified and joined to a curtain wall that girded the city.

Construction of a stone wall was begun in earnest between 1591 and continued beyond  Dasmarinas’ term  to 1594.   He had Sedeño’s NS de Guia tower redesigned and integrated into a more modern wall system.  Stone to build the walls and bastions were quarried in Guadalupe and Meycauayan.  Chinese artisans worked on the fortifications, some parts contracted to Chinese foremen.  During the incumbency of Francisco Tello (1596-1602) and Pedro Bravo de Acuna (1602-06) the height of the wall was raised and damage repaired.  The fortifications of Intramuros were being constantly repaired and improved under different governors general from Dasmariñas’ time until 1872 when the last recorded work on the fortifications was completed.  His successors continued to improve on the walls.

The Chinese uprisings of 1603 and of 1629-30 proved that the city walls were not impregnable as the rebels had gotten to Intramuros.  The 1630 revolt spread to other neighboring provinces.  As a consequence of this uprising, the Chinese were driven out of the city and forced to live in a ghetto, one harquebus shot distant from the walls.  An open space was built between the city and the Chinese ghetto, known as Parian.  But the inhabitants of Manila needed the goods and services of the Chinese, so they were allowed to bring their goods to a gate which faced the Parian.  Governor Alfonso Fajardo de Tenza (1618-24) had a moat dug to surround the city.  His action was motivated by the memory of the Chinese revolts, and the threat of Dutch invasion.  The moat was 60 meters wide and three meters deep and served as an artificial waterway that connected to and was fed by the Pasig.

Under Gov. Gen Hurtado de Corcuera (1635-44) the moat was expanded and covered walkways constructed.  But in 1645 a strong earthquake damaged the city’s fortification walls.  The moat appears in a 1671 map designed by Ignacio Muñoz, O.P.  This runs around the eastern and southern flank of the citadel.  A contrafoso (outer moat) appears in this map.  An island is formed by between the two moats linked at the Baluarte de San Nicolás by a narrow canal.  A bridge across the inner moat linked Puerta del Parian with an island where a small outer fort and curtain wall protected this opening.  Puerta Real, which at this time at the end of Calle Real del Palacio, was protected by a ravelin.

Gov. Diego de Fajardo (1644-63) judging that the southern flank of the city walls from Bastion de San Diego to San Nicolas de Caranza (San Andres) was most vulnerable, broadened its width but in so doing the bastions were much recessed and therefore less effective and had to be extended.

Meanwhile within, the city grew as an opulent center because of wealth that came from the galleon trade.  War, fire, earthquake and other natural and human-made disasters were crucial in the creation of architecture best adapted to the Philippines.  There were a number of strong earthquakes in the 1600s, in fact, the century began with one.  Another major earthquake struck in 1645.  It is theorized to be the beginning of arquitectura mestiza, European building traditions colliding with local traditions and the exigencies of living in the Ring of Fire.  Documents indicate that by 1630, Manila was filled with residences patterned after Spanish-Mexican models.  These consisted of two story stone and mortar structures many vaulted in stone.  These structures were dangerous when the earth shook.  After 1645, a mixed style appeared consisting of a lower story of mortar and stone, and an upper story of wood.  Stone vaults were avoided, instead tile roofs resting on stout timbers, and supported by lintel and post construction were preferred.  Even public buildings like churches adapted this method.  Of the vaulted buildings in Manila only the San Agustin church remains.  This was completed in 1604 long before the constructional change.

Like the buildings within the walls, the fortification itself underwent modification and repair. Gov. Sabiniano Manrique de Lara (1653-63) had the walls repaired and improved as a consequence of the damages wrought by the 1645 earthquake.  He had the Bastion de San Diego raised to the height of 7.5 meters and the other bastions repaired.  Preparing for an attack by Koxinga, the Ming general who had driven the Dutch from Formosa (Taiwan) in 1661, he built forward defenses along the seaside, namely: the Media naranja de San Lorenzo, the fortins of San Jose, San Eugenio, San Pedro and San Juan.  He fortified Puerta Real and Puerta Postigo del Palacio by building before it the bastion de San Francisco Javier.  He built a small fort, Almacenes, along the Pasig and a bastion near the Santo Domingo church.  He deepened the moat and added a low forewall before it.  Koxinga’s attack never materialized because the Chinese general died before he could cross the South China Sea from Taiwan.  However, all these preparations left the city with better defenses.  The walls remained substantially unchanged for the rest of the century, except for minor repairs.

In 1705, Juan Ramirez de Ciscara, a military engineer was sent by the crown to check on the fortifications and to plan improvements based on modern concepts of fortification.  In 1734, under Gov. Gen Fernando Valdez Tamon the fortification was improved further.  Valdez Tamon wrote a report on the status of colonial fortifications in the Philippines in 1738-39.  Valdez Tamon commissioned a map, designed by Antonio Fernandez Roxas in 1729.  The map presumably shows Intramuros before the improvements done under the governor.  Apparently, the moat seen in the Muñoz Map, had deteriorated as the island near Baluarte de San Nicolás had broken up into smaller sections and the outer moat had merged with the inner moat.

While awaiting Valdes Tamon’s successor, Archbishop Aredecherra took charge of government.  During this interim the archbishop worked to improve the walls.

In 1762, during the Seven Years War, the British damaged the southern flank of the walls, east of Baluarte de San Diego, after bombarding it for almost a week.  They set their batteries at the churches just outside the walls.  For two years, they occupied Manila until 1764 when control was returned to the Spanish.  The British occupation emphasized the need to improve the defenses of Manila.  In 1769 Dionisio O’Kelley, a military engineer, proposed deepening the moat fronting the sea and adding parapets to the walls.  By 1772, a moat had been dug separating Fort Santiago from the rest of the city.  Puerta Real was moved to its present site in 1780 and between 1781-87 Manila’s system of fortification assumed most of its present shape.  For a long time, the military had assessed the six settlements that grew just outside the walls as threats to the walled city’s security.  Long delayed in its plans to demolish these settlements because of strong opposition from the Church, the military finally executed the plan after the British occupation.  Demolished were the settlement of Bagumbayan, Santiago, San Juan, San Fernando Dilao, San Miguel and the Parian.  Dilao was reestablished in the district we know today as Paco and San Miguel was transferred across the Pasig to the site it presently occupies.

In 1861-62, Puerta Isabel II the last gate of Intramuros was built.  This meant redesigning the Ravelin de Sto. Domingo and the Magallanes gate, which opened to the river and where a monument in honor of Magellan stood.

To the end of the 19th century, Intramuros remained a civic, religious and educational center, however, trade and commerce moved to Binondo, at the northern side of the Pasig.  Here British and American trading houses and opulent residences owned by merchants and traders were built by the second half of the 19th century.  The Pasig became a busy harbor filled with schooners, steamships, cascos and other boats.  Just outside the walls were the almacenes, the royal storehouse and the aduana or customs house.  The almacenes replaced the 18th century Alcacería de San Fernando.  A market and a dwelling for Chinese traders, originally housed in an octagonal building, the Alcacería was built on the Pasig’s opposite bank.

In 1863, a severe earthquake damaged Manila, many public buildings were in ruin among them the cathedral, the Ayuntamiento and the Palacio del Gobernador.  While both the cathedral and the Ayuntamiento were rebuilt, the palace was not.  An earthquake in 1880  sealed the decision not to rebuild the Palacio.  The governor general transferred residence to Malacañan, a country house built by the Rochas in the San Miguel district.  Since then Malacañan has remained the residence of the chief executive of the land.

The fortifications final destruction happened in February 1945 while Manila was being bombarded by American troops, sent to drive away the Japanese.

Complementary forts: San Antonio & San Felipe.  Intramuros and Santiago did not stand alone as fortifications.  They were part of the coastal defense of Manila Bay.  South of Intramuros was built Fort San Antonio Abad.  This was the polvirin or gunpowder storehouse of Manila.  It was deemed too dangerous to store gunpowder within the perimeter of the city.  So a structure was built to house it, but it had to be sufficiently near so that when needed, gunpowder could be easily transferred to the city.  Hence the fort.

San Felipe Neri at Cavite Puerto was built to protect the galleon’s dockyard.  The sea around Manila was too shallow for the deep draught galleons to anchor near it.  Until the 20th century, the high tide line reached close to the walls of the city.  In fact, the sea and the shallow sandbars served as the western defense of the city.  Only when the shoreline was pushed some 800 meters west with reclamation work to build the north and south harbors was it possible for ships to dock near Manila.

Galleon and ships returning from Acapulco dropped anchor at Cavite Puerto, where they downloaded cargo, which in turn were brought by rowboats to Manila.

Presently located inside the Naval Station at Cavite City (Cavite Puerto) San Felipe Neri was planned as an irregular quadrilateral with four bastions with orillons at each corner.  This was the site of mutiny of 1872, a precursor of the war of independence from Spain in 1896.  The mutiny of dockhands and laborers in the shipyard resulted in the execution of three priests, Frs. Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, and thirteen others who were singled out as conspirators.

Today only the facade and flanking curtain walls and two bastions of San Felipe remain.  The Americans demolished the rest of the fort during the early 20th century to make way for a naval station and dry-dock.  The fort walls in good condition have been cemented over and house a small naval museum.

With the activity of the galleon trade in full swing, the settlement around the fort grew from a seasonal one to a permanent village.  By the 18th century, the Jesuits from Kawit had established a church and with an endowment by Bachiller Castro established a school.  In time, other religious orders also established themselves at Cavite Puerto for no longer were goods transshipped to Manila, Cavite itself became a trading center.  To protect this urban space, a defensive perimeter was built around the residences, warehouses, and churches.  Described in Spanish documents as a fuerza, the fortification of Cavite Puerto is similar to Intramuros in that it encloses a settlement rather than a military installation.  More accurately then it should be called a citadel.

At its most developed the fortification enclosed a small town of eight churches, the College of San Ildefonso, public buildings, warehouses and residences, which served the needs of a native population, the soldiers and workers at the port, transients and passengers on board the galleon.  The principal entrance to the walled settlement was through Puerta Vaga (the new gate corrupted to Porta Baga), which was flanked by two stout bastions.  In the 18th century, a canal was dug before Porta Baga separating the settlement from the rest of the sandbar.  It was a virtual island when a drawbridge was raised.

The whole settlement was reduced to ashes during the last year of the Second World War, 1945.  Except for the bell tower of the Recollect church, nothing remains of the settlement.  Presently, archaeological excavations at Porta Baga are being undertaken.

Other Royal Forts.  Santiago, Intramuros, San Antonio Abad,  San Felipe Neri and Cavite Puerto may be called royal fortifications because they were constructed at the initiative of the crown and supported by royal funds which paid for the salary and upkeep of soldiers and officers, supplied the forts with armament and repaired the walls and other static elements when deteriorated.

San Pedro in Iloilo.  A second royal fort was built in the Visayas this was to be known as San Pedro.  The fort traces its history to the expedition of Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa in 1595.  For the projected conquest of Mindanao and ultimately Brunei, a garrison and way station was established in Iloilo, the capital of Ogtong Province, the name given to Panay Island’s southern coast.  Figueroa was the encomendero of Suaraga (San Joaquin) in Ogtong; he financed the expedition against Brunei himself on the condition that should he conquer it he would be its governor for life.  Unfortunately, Figueroa died in a military encounter and the Spaniards failed to overrun Brunei.

At the mouth of the Iloilo River, where Figueroa had established a garrison, a stone fort dedicated initially to the N.S. del Rosario was begun in 1616.  The fort was apparently renovated before 1738, by then it was known as San Pedro.  The Valdes Tamon report records a quadrilateral fortification with four corner bastions, three with orillons, and the fourth plain.  The fort was slightly renovated in 1820 under the direction of the Maestro del Ramo de Fortificaciones, Joaquin Pabalán.

Because fort was built at the mouth of the Panay River and very close to the sea its stability was constantly threatened.  Much of the fortification was still standing before World War II, but damaged during the war, the ruins were demolished and the ground leveled for a park, presently called San Pedro Park.  Foundations of the southern wall, consisting of large coral blocks, remain and are incorporated into the breakwater.

La Playa Honda, Zambales.  Of the royal fort, La Playa Honda in Zambales had the least sophisticated design.  The 1738 report of Valdes Tamon describes the fort as quadrilateral (other sources describe it as triangular; Delgado as “fuerza de canteria”) but lacking bastions.  The ruins were documented by National Museum before the fort disappeared totally.  Located by the shore at the mouth of the Paynaben or Bucao River, what ever remained has been covered by lahar since the 1994 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

Built in 1609 at the eastern coast of Mindanao in the province called Caraga, San Jose in Tandag was constructed as protection against the warlike Caragas, who harassed the settlement.  Later this same fort would serve as a protection against slave raiders.  Although some writers have claimed that the fort was no longer used after the 18th century, Schreurs argues that the ruined fort stood for another century, despite its reported destruction in 1613 and siege by the Maguindanaos in 1754, because a document in the series “Erreccion de Pueblos, Carga desde 1820 hasta 1823” (RMAO), mentions that in 1821 “one day 18 Moro pancos sailed passed the baluarte de San José de Tandag.”

The beginnings of Fort San Jose is traced to 1605 when a punitive expedition under Gen Juan Manuel de la Vega was sent to Tandag, but at the sight of the fleet the inhabitants withdrew to the mountains.  Then in 1609, Gov Gen Juan de Silva sent a fleet with more than 400 Spanish and native soldiers to put an end to the Caragan slave raiders who attacked Visayan settlements.  Tandag was built to contain the local tribes rather than to repel raiders who came by sea, although it would serve that purpose during the height of the Moro raids.  The fort was soon put to the test when 3000 Caragas attacked the fortification.

In 1622, the bishop of Cebu, Pedro de Arce, entrusted the care of Tandag to the Recollects.  From Tandag the friars, initially eight of them, set out to convert the surrounding villages, from Gigaquit to the Siargao Island.  In 1754, Tandag was attacked by Maguindanaos.  Despite great odds the defenders held on as long as they could.  The town was eventually abandoned.  The fort was apparently rebuilt because it was attacked again 1761 and 1767.  The fort was in a bad state in 1796, when it was recommended that it was better to abandon and transfer the troops half to Baganga (now Davao Oriental) and half to Caraga.  A report of 1797 stated that the fort was in ruins because of an earthquake, the storeroom was completely useless and the wall of the prison was nothing more than wooden stakes.  Another earthquake would completely demolish the fort.  Schreurs remarks “The fort was obviously not demolished” for the reason cited above. The fort was triangular with two unequal bastions at the corners and third demi-bastion.  Only the foundations of the fort remain today.

San Miguel in Iligan.  Originally named San Francisco Xavier, this fort of stone and mortar was designed as star-shaped.  The fort stood until it was damaged by a 1916 flood.  There are presently no traces of the fort.  The site is identified as the district of Timoga, Iligan City, near the mouth of the Agus River.  This swift river has its source in Lake Lanao, and falls down a cataract called Maria Cristina.

Nuestra Senora del Pilar in Zamboanga.  The fort traces its origins to the efforts of the Jesuit Melchor de Vera, who constructed a quadrilateral fort in 1635 in honor of San José.  De Vera was the same Jesuit who fortified the Jesuit mission churches in Leyte.  The fort was abandoned and partially demolished in 1662, when the Spanish consolidated its military might in Manila in preparation for the immanent invasion of the Chinese leader Koxinga, who had forced the Dutch out of Formosa (Taiwan) in 1661.  The Jesuit provincial Luis Pimentel asked the government to reactivate the garrison and build the fort as a security for the missionaries in Zamboanga and to secure Spanish position in the south.  The fort was not rebuilt until 1719, under the direction of the military engineer Juan de Ciscara.  Planned as a quadrilateral it had plain bastions at three corners and one with orillons, facing the sea.  The main gate of the fort was remodeled in 1734 and relief of the Virgin del Pilar put above it.  The fort was further improved in the late 19th century.  Restored as it looked in the 19th century, the fort is a museum and an elegant venue for receptions, art exhibitions, and other cultural events.

The 1734 map of Murillo Velarde depicts a town surrounding the fort.  A wall surrounds this town.  Delgado describes this settlement as “ciudadela cerrada con dos  baluartes.”  Apparently the citadel was improved to surround the whole area; by the turn of the century it was enclosed by a wall laid following an irregular pentagon plan and had five bastions.  The Americans demolished the walls surrounding the settlement to make way for Petite Barracks.  Only the memory of this citadel remains in the name Santa Barbara, the name of the principal bastion of this enclosed town.

Aside from the forts mentioned above, the Valdes Tamon report of 1738, lists the following forts as receiving royal subsidy:

  • Luzon: San Francisco in Cagayan, Itugud, Cavicunga, Tuao, Capinata; Palawan, Calamianes;
  • Visayas: Capiz;
  • Mindanao: Cagayan [de Oro], Dapitan, Caraga, Cateel and Linao.

These fortifications had their contingents ranging from a full company to a small detachment.  Some of these fortifications were built not at the initiative of the crown but the resident missionary, like the forts at Cagayan de Oro and Linao attributed to Fray Agustin de San Pedro.  The substantial fort Sta. Isabel at Taytay, for which military engineers were employed, is not in the Valdes Tamon list, probably because the fort was still under construction at the time of the report.  Tomas Castro was the military engineer assigned to improve the fort.  Also missing is fort Nuestra Senora del Triunfo in Misamis (Ozamis City) was still in the planning stage; the fort was completed c. 1756.

Coastal defenses.  Today, far more numerous than the remaining royal forts are small stone and mortar structures that served as a network of coastal defenses for the Philippine archipelago.  More than 250 sites have been noted as having had at one time or another some fortification.  These ranged from the stone and mortar structures mentioned to blockhouses of hard wood or to natural fortifications strengthened by riprap walls and armed with canons.

Many of these fortifications were erected at the initiative of a local leader like a friar Fray Agustin or a provincial governor like Francisco Xavier Estrogo Gallegos who built fortifications in Camarines to protect the gold mines of Paracale.  The impetus for building these structures was less the threat of European powers but more the seasonal attacks of slave raiders that came from the south on the wings of the habagat, the southwesterly monsoon current that blew from late June to September.

For instance, although two royal forts in Iloilo and in Cebu were built by the early 17th cent, the threat of slave raids haunted remote coastal communities prompting them to fortify such that the extensive fortification of the Visayan Islands developed quickly from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century.  A whole string of watchtowers was built in southern Cebu from the south most town of Tañon (Santander) to Carcar.  The initiative to build such a string came from Fray Julian Bermejo, who at the age of 24 was assigned as parish priest of Boljoon and who later in life became the provincial superior of the Augustinians.

Fray Julian also devised a signal system using large colored flags, provisioned hiding places in the central mountains, and organized armed armadas and volunteer militias.  So effective were his systems of defense that after a decisive victory against the raiders in 1813 off Sumilon Island, no raider dared attack southern Cebu.

Fray Julian’s dual system of defense, a static land based string of forts and a mobile sea borne armada, was typical of community defense strategies.  Some native leaders were hailed as brave defenders like the Carrio family who manned the vessels of Fray Julian.

Unlike royal forts which were built to plan; and accommodated the latest in technology coastal defenses were built according to the ability and resources of the community.  It is not surprising that a decisively medieval design of the round tower appears in coastal defenses.  The tower at Barangay Sulvec, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur is so designed that it resembles a rook, complete with tall parapets.  A variety of material, often the same used in colonial buildings, is found.  Dalaguete’s octagonal watchtower is covered with cut coral blocks, while the towers of La Union are a mixture of mortar, sandstone and brick.

Architectural types and examples.  The most common form of coastal fortification is the baluarte, also called bastion, castillo, tanawan, bantayan, lantawan.  The term is probably best translated as bulwark because unlike the bastion which was integrated a system of curtain walls, the baluarte stood alone.

Because of their degraded state, it is difficult to reconstruct the elevation of many baluartes.  Some may have been roofed as indicated by roof beam holes or remnants of hard wood beams still in place.  Other may have been merely raised platforms.  A plan done by Manuel Herbella for Tagbilaran shows a quadrilateral, two-story roofed structure with a ramp leading to the entrance.  This bipartite structure had a lower floor of masonry and an upper floor of wood.  A stairway that lead to the second story, where there were sentry boxes at each corner.  It is uncertain if Herbella’s plan was typical.

Certainly the baluarte at Dingle and Miagao, Iloilo do not appear to have been roofed.  In fact, there is no visible access to its upper floor, suggesting that the way up was through a retractable ladder.  Typical of Iloilo baluarte is the restored structure within Racso’s Resort.  This is a one stroy structure with battlements.  When the local office of Department of Tourism restored the tower they found no access to the elevated platform and so added an iron ladder for easy access.

The baluartes of the Ilocos, all appear to be two-story structures.  Circular openings for armament placed at the upper register suggest that these baluartes had a second floor but the absence of masonry traces suggest that the floor may have been wooden.  Oral tradition in San Teodoro, Romblon claims that the watchtower in the town had a heavy molave door, a wooden platform and a wooden staircase as access.  The presence of an elevated wooden structure is also suggested by the baluarte at Pamilacan Island, Bohol where traces of burnt molave beams are still embedded in the masonry structure.

The watchtowers of Cebu are of there types: octagonal, hexagonal and quadrilateral.  The octagonal and hexagonal tower seems to be of older vintage, the remnants of one in Dalaguete bears the date 1768 while the far more numerous quadrilateral towers seem to be of later vintage, most likely tracing to the time of Fray Julian Bermejo.  Tell tale signs in the masonry structure—square holes for beam, charred vertical posts—suggest that these towers were smaller versions of the blockhouse built by Fray Julian in Boljoon.  This two-storey, roofed structure is in relatively good condition and can give clues to the actual shape of numerous southern Cebu baluartes.

The Ilocos towers favor the circular plan.  But like the Cebu towers, these structures were two stories with an upper platform of wood as indicated by squarish holes for floor beams.

Towers were generally built using the same material as the town church and the bahay na bato of the elite.  In Ilocos river stones with the occasional brick was used.  In the Visayas, coral either cut or raw was used.  In the latter case, the rough coral was covered with a heavy layer of lime mortar, and finished with a smooth layer of paletada.  The imposition of a lime layer was facilitated by raising a temporary framework of wood or bamboo netting, which was used to cover the still wet lime until it set.  Marks of this framework, seen as vertical and horizontal lines are still visible in many watchtowers.  In Guimbal and Miagao, builders turned to the yellowish sandstone, the same material used for the churches, for building.  Thus, there is a correlation between the material used for fortifications and for other buildings within a given area.

The baluarte were not considered the primary fortification of a town or settlement.  In fact, they functioned primarily as lookout and as warning device.  As soon as raiding vessels were sighted a signal using bells, hollow wooden trunks, conch trumpets, flags, fires even fireworks warned of impending danger.  As soon as the signal was received and relayed, the townsfolk would seek the safety of the church, a fortified area, or would flee to the mountains or forests where they had secret lairs.

Fortified church complex.  Philippine colonial churches, remarked Dr. William Summers, a historian and musicologist from Dartmouth, are urban in scale compared to the smaller mission churches of California, Arizona, and Texas.  The reason for the large size of these churches, measuring on the average 40 meters by 20, was their use as refuge in times of attack.  Their stout walls and heavy, thick doors of hardwood like molave (Vitex parviflora) or tindalo, a type of narra (Pterocarpus indicus), protected townsfolk, their animals, and goods during a raid.  The church was the innermost line of defense.

In some places, notably in the Visayas, walls surrounded church complexes, i.e. church, bell tower and convento (priest residence).  Examples of such fortified churches are the following:

Banton, Romblon.  Attributed to the initiative of the Recollects who are noted for their fortifications in Palawan (Paragua) and the Visayas, the Banton complex is surrounded by a wall.  Entrance to the complex which also encloses the casa real is through a stone gateway.

Boljoon, Cebu.  After a slave raid at the turn of the 18th century left the town of Boljoon devastated the Augustinians immediately set out to repair the church, but was not completed when Julian Bermejo, OSA took charge of the parish in 1802.  This energetic priest made Boljoon the strategic center of a defense net consisting of fortified churches, watchtowers, and a roving armada of native boats.

The fortifications of Boljoon are in fair condition and much of the walls still stand behind the church.  Important features of this fortification are the church, bell tower and blockhouse presently used as bell tower.  The front of the blockhouse is obscured by a monument to Dr. Jose Rizal.  The fort complex was laid out as a quadrilateral with bastions at the corners.  Complementing the fortified church complex is watchtower, perched on the hill beside the church.  That quadrilateral tower is presently used as base for large a cross, clearly visible from the church compound.

Argao, Cebu.  North of Boljoon, Argao had a church complex built from 1788 to 1830 by Francisco Espina OSA and Mateo Peréz OSA.  The church atrium is surrounded by a system of walls and bastions at strategic corners.  Within the enclosure are the church and convent, the ruins of a casa real, school, and a chapel for the deceased.  Of the fortifications, which are in a poor condition, parts of the wall to the gospel side of the church, and the facade, two gates and a bastion facing the sea exist.  The bastion now serves as the lower floor of a house.

Baclayon, Bohol.  In the 18th century (1727) the Jesuits completed the construction of a stone church.  Jose Delgado, S.J. (1754) reports the existence of a “fortaleza” and stone “baluarte” at Baclayon.  The fort had a quadrilateral plan.  Some of the walls stand behind church but are in disrepair.  A bastion facing the sea now serves as an azotea.  A grotto to the BVM of Lourdes and a flight of stairs hides the bastion.  Oral reports claim that a watchtower, probably the same one recorded by Delgado stood on the wharf in front of the church.  This was demolished in the 1980s.

Bell towers as baluarte.  While their primary function was to summon the people to prayer, church bell towers which rose above the tree line were convenient watchtowers and their bells serves as warning device.  The defensive possibility of the church tower or campanario is alluded to by the name of a town in Ilocos Sur, Bantay, meaning guardian.  The tower is located about 150 yards from the church and built on a mound.  Made of bricks, it rises to more than four stories and has a good command of the Abra River and the sea to the west.

Balilihan, Bohol.  Another bell tower detached from the church is located on a hill beside the church.  This quadrilateral tower of cut coral stone has a command of the Abatan River which empties at the coast area of Cortes.  Despite the florid ornamentation of the upper register, the tower had obvious military functions.  It is recorded that slave raider traveled inland to attack communities along riverbanks.  This tower was built in 1840 by the Recollects.  The tower is in fair condition.  The wooden stairway to the top has deteriorated and some of the carved stones have fallen.  A small chapel has been built beside the tower.  The hill on which the tower is built is a park, reforested with tropical hardwood.

Panglao, Bohol.  Another detached tower found in Bohol was built in 1851 by Recollects along the northern shore of Panglao island.  This five-storey hexagonal bell tower is located at some distance from both the Panglao church, completed in the 20th cent and the ruins of an earlier church, which despite the baroque touches to its façade it is dated to the 19th century.  The proximity of the tower to the shore, now far more distant because of mangrove and coconut growth, suggests that it also doubled as a watchtower.  The structure is in fair condition.  The wood members have all deteriorated and there is no access to the top floor.  The stone bulges outwards showing signs of structural deterioration.  Reputedly Bohol’s tallest bell tower, this soaring structure bears the year 1851 inside its lowest chamber.

Fortified Settlements.  Aside from church complexes, settlements could also be fortified. Examples are:

Romblon, Romblon.  The 1738 report of Valdes Tamon describes the fortification of Romblon as consisting of a straight wall that linked two mountains at their base.  The line of defense run just outside the church compound and had within it dwellings and other buildings.  The report makes no mention of two fortifications built on the adjacent hills: San Andres and Santiago.  Although the defensive perimeter wall no longer exists and the shoreline of Romblon has peen pushed from the church some 400 meters forward, the two hilltop fortifications still stand.  San Andres a quadrilateral structure with rounded bastions is in good condition, while the triangular Santiago is in disrepair.

Daang Lungsod, Oslob.  Located at the earlier town site of Oslob, a fortified settlement built 1789 is surrounded by a quadrilateral fortification, approximately 200 x 100 mts.  The fort’s northern corner is in ruins, there may have been a bastion at this corner.  This section has a date of 1789 inscribed.  The facade has with two quadrilateral and one octagonal bastion.  The site is owned by the parish and a small modern chapel stands inside the enclosure.  Complementing the settlement’s defenses is a watchtower built on a hill beside the fortification.

Bacon, Sorosgon.  Two coastal watchtowers, both in ruins, complement form a defense complex with what is locally known as Intramuros.  Located at the public market near the sea this irregular quadrilateral fortifications, is surrounded by houses.  It probably had corner bastions although only one is clearly visible, located behind a gasoline station.  The walls are partially ruined and inside the enclosure are dwellings.

Independent Forts.  Small, detached and independent fortifications, what can be called fortin or reducto, were also built.  The most handsome of these is San Vicente Ferrer, found at Punta Cruz, Maribojoc, Bohol.  Built by the Recollects at the site where the first Spanish missionaries is said to have landed, this triangular fort, has a roofed second storey designed as a hexagon.  The windows above and below open to the Bohol Sea, and on a clear day Siquijor Island and southeast Cebu are visible.  The fort has the inscription Castillo de San Vicente Ferrer and the date 1796 in stone relief above the entrance.  The stone inscription is greatly abraded and damaged, otherwise the fort is in good condition.  Consolidation of the upper floor is necessary because the molave timber supporting the lime floor is rotting.  The fort is in a public park.

Nasunugan, Biliran Island. Not all fortifications were built as coastal defenses, and not all fortifications were built to consolidate Spanish rule. In fact, the ruins at Barangay Nasunugan outside Biliran town was built against Spanish attacks. The fortification is attributed to Gaspar Ignacio de Guevara, a native of Palapag, Samar and the first parish priest of Biliran. The fortification is dated ca. 1765 to 1774, when Fr. Gaspar led a religious sect that broke off from the local Church. Fr. Gaspar organized an egalitarian communal sect in the forest of Biliran. To protect his Utopian community, he had a fortification built against any attacks from the Spanish authorities. Fr. Gaspar’s community flourished until 1774 when he was captured by slave raiders and drowned in the sea. Thereafter, the fortification he built was burnt, on account says by his followers did the job to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Spanish authorities.


Santa Maria, Laguna. Not all fortifications are built by the shore. As a consequence it seems of the restiveness spawned by the 1872, the Guardia Civil was concerned about the numbers of people who disappeared in the forested highlands of Cavite. These “tulisanes” as they were called posed a threat to the large landholding of the Dominicans at Santa Rosa, Laguna. Thus in 1877, they built stone barracks and a stronghold at Santa Rosa near the Cavite boundary. This place, called Cuarteles, is now in ruins.


Nineteenth-century fortifications.  With Gov. Gen. Narciso Claveria’s attack on the Balangingi strongholds at Tungkil and Sipac, a new chapter in fortification began.  Wishing to consolidate Spanish rule in Mindanao and end once and for all the attacks on coastal settlements to the north, the government in Manila went on a systematic campaign against the Islamic communities of Mindanao and Jolo.  Jolo was attacked in and in 1876 the Spaniards had built a fortified settlement and two fortifications in the town.  In 1895 Gov. Gen. Weyler launched a campaign against the Maranao, and set up fortifications along the Agus River.  In Cotabato forts were built at Dulawan (Regina Regente), Pikit, Parang, and Cotabato.  A fort was also built a Momungan in Lanao del Sur.

Characteristic of these forts is their reliance on modern weaponry.  No longer are the fortification walls as stoutly built as in the previous century.  Instead walls had narrow openings or slits through which the rifles could be mounted.

In the 19th century, the corps of military engineer, initially organized in the 18th century, played an increasing strategic role in military campaigns. Not only did they build fortifications but since the military relied on swift deployment of troops on an infrastructure of roads and bridges. In the 1890s, the engineering corps had built a 50-kilometer road from Tukuran in Zamboanga del Sur to Lake Lanao, passing by the fort at Momungan. For the military campaign against the Lake Lanao communities, Gov. Weyler ordered suspension bridges built across the swift Agos River to provide quick access among the fortifications, stretched along a roadway that began in Iligan, passed through Momungan (Balo-i) and ended at the shores of Lake Lanao.

A new era in military fortification had begun.

Neglected Chapter.  Spanish investment in infrastructure, personnel and finances to build, maintain, provision and support these fortifications emphasizes their importance in the overall scheme of colonization and control.  Unfortunately, their very effectiveness at the time they were built was also the cause for their demise and abandonment.  The long history of military fortifications has been one of competition between defense and offense, between fort and armament.  The development of new offensive weaponry is met with new defensive measures; new defensive measures are then challenged by development in armament.  And so the story goes.

The neglect of colonial fortifications in the Philippines is due in great part to their dysfunctionality and the absence of an adequate interpretative angle to appreciate their value as historical and cultural artifact.  The neglect of fortifications has resulted in ownership issues about these historical structures.  While most of the structures are in public land, being built by the shore, a good number belong to land titled to the Church.  The fortification, being an integral part of the church complex, title to the site and the structure has fallen to the Church.  This is the case for instance with the fortifications at Madridejos and Sta. Fe in Bantayan and the forts at Culion and Cuyo in Palawan which are now an integral part of the parish church building.  Some fortifications have fallen within the property lines of private individuals.  A tower in Carlatan, San Fernando, La Union is part of Resort, so is a tower at Guimbal.  A tower at Argao has just been fenced in and is effectively inaccessible to the public.  How these have come about is uncertain. A tower in Capiz is totally inaccessible to the public because it is remote and within private property. As there is no clear and comprehensive legislation covering such structures it is not surprising that private individuals have within their property historic sites, to which they control access.

An interpretative angle is sorely missing. While colonial churches and the bahay na bato are easy to appreciate because they have maintained their functions as place of worship and residence, fortifications are hard to place within the total picture of colonial architecture. Why speak about structures that were clearly instruments of colonialism, control, consolidation and coercion? In a previous book, Fortress of Empire, this author has suggested that if a complete and balanced history of a people is to be written, the dark side of history must not be neglected. Here, the author proposes a more positive optic to understand and appreciate fortifications.

A rationale for conserving these fortifications and opening them to the public is being proposed by this preliminary documentation which views fortifications as vital in the dissemination of culture.  They are a ruta cultural.  As the routes for cultural exchange, these structure though dysfunctional have a social import. These structures cannot be divorced from the process of urbanization or from the laying out of the cuadricula and the construction of the signature buildings of colonialism: the church complex, the casa real, the tribunal and jail, the escuela and the market place. In fact, many fortifications were found not in remote places but right at the heart of a town, where the church complex served the function of a fortress.

The documentation of some 300 reports or sites of fortifications, demonstrates how extensive this system was; it was indeed a network. By seeking to establish a basic data base from which a cultural map of existing colonial fortifications can be drawn, this documentation hopes these historic structures will be better preserved and guarded for their represent an important though neglected aspect of Philippine national history. 


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